By Dom Cioffi
I knew as soon as I hauled my son’s travel trunk into the cabin that things in the summer camp world had changed dramatically. I had no sooner made it through the door when my senses picked up an oddly refreshing pine forest odor coupled with a temperature fluctuation of about 20 degrees.
“Air conditioning?” I thought to myself. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
My son quickly ran over and claimed a top bunk near the back of the cabin. I opened up the bag of linens that my wife had prepared and immediately cast aside the hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial mattress cover that she purchased. One look at the supplied mattress confirmed that it was nearly brand new and certainly not suffering from any infestations.
The idea for a week of summer camp had been decided months earlier when several of my son’s friend’s mentioned that they were going to one specific camp during one specific week over summer vacation. Needless to say, he was signed up within minutes.
By the time I had my son’s bunk made up, seven of his friends had showed up with their parents and were in the process of prepping their own beds. “So much for the anxiety of being dropped off at camp with a bunch of strangers,” I thought. My son and his friends basically had an entire cabin to themselves.
Of course, using the word “cabin” in this case was a bit of a stretch. This was more like a highly accessorized bungalow. The shower area had four individual units, complete with shampoo and soap dispensers, and the four accompanying bathroom stalls were all private with full-length doors and dead bolt locks.
This was far removed from the open shower rooms I was forced to use as a kid, along with the one toilet meant to accommodate an entire cabin full of disgusting pre-teen boys.
Once we got my son settled, we wandered over to the dining hall where we were met with a ridiculously posh great room decked out with a Martha Stewart-meets-Shenandoah Valley theme that pitted coordinating earth tones against a granite topography.
“Wow,” I said to my wife. “This beats the dusty church rec. room that I used to eat in.”
Of course, all of that paled when we walked out back and came face-to-face with the epic in-ground pool that traversed the central corridor of the camp grounds. Painted in a vibrant aquatic blue color, the pool glistened against the leafy green backdrop of the nearby National Forest. But what really made this pool look out of place was the fountain set in the center that was spraying water high enough into the air to create a giant mist cloud that gently floated through the common area.
At that point, I turned to my wife and stated, “If my son spends an entire week swimming in that pool and never goes into a pond, I’m going lose my mind. I thought this was supposed to be a wilderness camp?”
We left soon after, secure in the feeling that our son would likely be even more spoiled when we returned a week later. So much for roughing it!
When we did return the following Saturday, we were met with a bit of a shock. As we pulled up and scanned the crowd of kids playing in front of their cabins, our son was nowhere to be found. One by one, my wife picked out my son’s friends as they danced about, but our boy was visibly absent. Finally, my wife yelled out the window to one his buddies, inquiring to his whereabouts. The kid turned and pointed to the front of the cabin where we finally noticed our son curled up on a bench, fast asleep while 200+ kids yelled and screamed around him.
So, apparently it doesn’t matter how posh the summer camp is. When you run yourself ragged and get little to no sleep, you’re going to get sick – and our boy was the picture of sick, proving that even pristine conditions are no match for the common cold.
This week’s film, “Captain Fantastic,” features an off-the-grid family who is dealing with their own sickness, except in this case the sickness has a profound mental effect on everyone involved.
Starring Viggo Mortensen as an impassioned and idealistic father of several children, “Captain Fantastic” tries to determine how much a counter-culture lifestyle can influence and/or damage a volatile young mind when faced with the realities of a modern world.
Check this one out if you’ve ever been intrigued with the idea of living off the land or dropping out of the “real” world. It’s got a light-hearted hippie vibe wrapped in the deeper questions of what it means to live a meaningful life.
An earthy “C+” for “Captain Fantastic.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.